The relics of six Knights of Columbus priests, martyred during the period of anti-Catholic persecution in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s began a pilgrimage of the United States in Houston on April 27.
Surrounded by scores of Fourth Degree honor guard, as well as bishops and priests from throughout Texas, the relics were present at the co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston for the opening Mass of the Knights' Texas State Convention. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas served as celebrant and homilist for the Mass, and used the example of the martyrs to illustrate the importance of the need today for Knights to stand up for religious liberty today.
The six priests — Fathers Pedro de Jesus Maldonado Lucero, Miguel de la Mora de la Mora, Jose Maria Robles Hurtado, Luis Batiz Sainz, Rodrigo Aguilar Alemán, and Mateo Correa Magallanes — were all martyred for their faith by the Mexican government during the religious persecution in Mexico in the early 20th century.
Thousands of the faithful turned out in 2005 for a previous pilgrimage of these relics in cities around the United States — from Dallas to Philadelphia to Los Angeles.
“For many years, this period of history has been all but forgotten on both sides of the border,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “This year, with the release of both a major motion picture and a book on this subject, the story of the struggle for religious freedom in Mexico will begin to be told. It is our hope that the pilgrimage of these relics will remind us all of the sacrifices made on behalf of religious liberty on this continent less than 100 years ago. It is a timely reminder that — from Ancient Rome to 1920s Mexico to today — persecution does not stifle the faith, but emboldens it.”
For Greater Glory — a film being released June 1 — takes the history of this period to the big screen with an all-star cast including Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole and Eva Longoria.
During the persecution of Catholics in Mexico by President Plutarco Elás Calles, the Knights of Columbus stood in solidarity with Catholics in Mexico raising funds for humanitarian relief of those displaced and for the education of the American public regarding the horrific facts of the persecution. A delegation of the Knights of Columbus met with President Calvin Coolidge in 1926 to discuss ways in which the U.S. government could influence the Mexican government to end the persecution.
Despite the support of the Calles regime and its anti-Catholic policies by the a number of American groups — including the Ku Klux Klan — the pressure brought by the Knights of Columbus and others had an effect and, in 1929, the U.S. government helped broker an agreement between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church, ending the worst of the persecution.
Relics have long been a part of Catholic devotional practice. Since the days of the Apostles, Christians have preserved and honored the physical remains of men and women recognized as saints.